October 13, 2020
| Updated: October 13, 2020
Name: Senior Deputy Michelle Walter
History and Background
Department: Travis County Constable Precinct 5
Total Years of Service: 14 total & 3.5 with Travis County
Michelle was influenced by her older sister who studied criminal justice in college. “I was 15 or 16 when I got the idea; I wanted an active job, not one where you sit behind the desk all day. There aren’t many of those,” Michelle said with a smile. During Michelle’s senior year of high school, she was given the opportunity to participate in a Senior Project Program. This program allowed students to spend three weeks in a field of their choice. Because of Michelle’s interest in law enforcement, she chose to shadow at the local Sheriff’s office. Michelle was able to gain a deeper understanding of police work by shadowing in dispatch and patrol. “They let me do a lot and it was cool to see all the different specialties you can do. It was definitely a positive experience,” she recalled.
Michelle is originally from Ohio and now resides in Austin, Texas. She met her husband while in the Air Force. Her husband was originally from the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area. After spending some time in Japan on assignment, she and her husband moved to the DFW area and Michelle pursued a career in law enforcement. In 2014, after spending nine years in the DFW area, the couple decided to move to Austin to be closer to family. Michelle continued her pursuit of law enforcement in Travis County, Texas.
Experiences & Lessons in Law Enforcement
How have your experiences been in this male-dominated profession?
“For the most part, it’s been pretty welcoming. I’ve done a lot to make myself marketable, to make myself stand out as a candidate for a promotion. I almost feel like I have to because you never know who you will be up against,” Michelle said. She talked about the benefits of female comradery and spoke positively about the Lemit Leadership Inventory for Female Executives program (LIFE). LIFE, “provides an opportunity to network; you feel more empowered when you connect with women in that capacity,” she said. Michelle established a female network in law enforcement through LIFE and continues to keep in contact with those she encountered there. LIFE provides a safe space for females in law enforcement to speak candidly. Michelle attended LIFE in the fall of 2015 and stays up to date with their events through their annual alumni conference.
Michelle has discovered that often times, “people just want to be heard.” She gave an example of a couple of ladies who visited her office during the height of Covid. “They wanted someone to empathize with them. Communication is a big part of law enforcement. It kind of gets lost. A lot of times people just want to tell their story and be heard. Everyone has their own story too.
“Most people go through life not having to deal with officers. If we took an extra minute or two to explain things, we would probably be viewed in a better light, and have more positive interactions ... I’ve always felt like my work product was a direct reflection of me and my department. I always look at it that way, especially when I work patrol. You want your first impression to be positive. You can at least create a respectful interaction; that’s the approach I’ve always had,” Michelle said.
Michelle is currently going through the promotional process and functions as the Senior Deputy for the Travis County Constable’s Office Precinct 5. She is assigned to community outreach. “With Covid, it has been very challenging. I spend half of my day helping out with civil processes and the other half trying to build a plan for virtual community outreach,” she said. Michelle referenced an older woman who she has been visiting for two and a half years through their Silver Watch program which she coordinates. Michelle finds her work to be, “very rewarding ... I am an extrovert and I love interacting with people,” she said. Normally, Michelle would participate in in-person programming, but for now, she is limited to phone interactions.
In addition to uncharacteristic times, Michelle has found her department to be unconventional as well. She said, “Our office is really unique. We drive unmarked cars and do not wear our uniforms every day. Our Constable decided on that when he came to this position. He wanted us to have a ‘soft approach.’ We enact protective orders and enforce court ordered child custody agreements, which can be an emotionally charged situation. There is an element of intimidation when you have a uniform on. On phone calls, I notice a difference in people’s tones when I tell them I’m in an unmarked car and plain clothes. When we walk up to someones’ door (without a uniform) we are seen in more of a human light.
She continued on to say, “He must’ve had some foresight because it’s a low profile approach. A lot of our precinct is in underserved areas and a lot of our programs are geared towards bringing helpfulness and assistance. We’ve been doing this as long as this Constable has been in office. I don’t know about any other departments who have policies like ours.
Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) & Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) Athletes
When I was in the police academy, our class had to do a police outreach project. The coordinator of the class brought in a Torch Run shirt and told us that if we all bought one, we’d fulfill the requirement for the project. So, of course, the class agreed. It wasn’t until a few years later that Michelle googled the meaning behind the Torch Run shirt. The more Michelle found out about LETR, the more she wanted to be involved. She eventually collaborated with Randy Bannister, an LETR representative. Michelle said, “Our families are still friends and keep in touch.”
Tip A Cops, Polar Plunges, and the Summer Games are Michelle’s top three favorite events with LETR. “Tip A Cops are always fun because everyone takes the time to come out. The athletes are in the spotlight. It feels good to have fun and it’s high energy which I like. We used to do Polar Plunges in Fort Worth. They always had a big turnout and it never failed that a cold front would come through right before the event. It was always well received by the community. The Summer Games are always amazing because the whole state converges in one city. It’s so much fun and positive. It’s almost magical,” she smiled.
Michelle said, “If I could give our athletes encouragement, I’d say, keep training and stay positive. We are going to get through this. Stay at it and stay healthy. We are looking forward to when we can have events again. I know so many athletes now, if I miss someone I’d be in trouble. I miss everyone: athletes, officers, coaches, and staff who help coordinate. I’ve been keeping up with some athletes online, it is good to still be able to interact with them virtually.
I reminded Michelle of the SOTX virtual programs that offer athletes options to be able to interact, exercise, socialize, and have fun with other athletes. For more information about these SOTX programs, follow us on Youtube at SOTX TV
, follow us on Facebook @specialolympicstx
, Twitter @SOTexas
, and Instagram @specialolympicstx.
Special thanks to Deputy Michelle Walter and the Travis County Precincts for their continued support of SOTX and LETR!